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Posted on Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 6:47 p.m.

Rutledge decries changes to Michigan's workers' comp law as House passes GOP-backed bill

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Michigan House on Wednesday voted 59-49 to approve legislation updating Michigan's 100-year-old workers' compensation law.

Republicans are hailing it as a much-needed reform to a law that hasn't been changed significantly in more than 25 years.

But at least one Washtenaw County lawmaker is crying foul.

State Rep. David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, is speaking out against the proposal, which now heads to the Senate for consideration. If approved, Rutledge said, it would significantly weaken workers' compensation protections under state law.

David_Rutledge_ headshot_2010.jpg

David Rutledge

House Bill 5002 allows employers new controls over injured workers' health care options and reduces the support available to injured or disabled workers, Rutledge said.

"Our state's workers' compensation laws have been around for 100 years, and have been praised as a model for other states to ensure that Michigan workers are protected if they are injured on the job," Rutledge said in a statement. "This legislation will make it harder for workers hurt on the job to put food on the table."

The bill is being sponsored by Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford, with support from several of his colleagues, including state Rep. Rick Olson, R-York Township.

Jacobsen argues HB 5002 modernizes the system to reflect medical, legal and economic advancements since the state's workers' comp law was written.

The legislation clarifies "personal injury" as one sustained while working or as a result of the job, establishes a distinction between total and partial disability, and clears up definitions of disability, wage earning capacity and wage loss, Jacobsen said.

"Michigan's workers' compensation law has been causing confusion for business owners and employees for too long and these changes will eliminate that confusion and help reduce the need for court cases to settle workers' comp claims," Jacobsen said in a statement.

Rutledge said the current state law includes protections for both workers and employers from costly litigation. He fears HB 5002 could significantly increase the number of court cases.

He also said the bill would eliminate many requirements for new magistrates who oversee worker's comp cases, making magistrates political appointees instead of qualified experts.

"The Michigan workers' compensation system has been set up to protect employers, workers and their families," Rutledge said, "and this legislation is nothing more than an attempt to help big business dodge any responsibility to injured or disabled workers."

Rutledge also noted the legislation would allow employers control over which doctor injured workers could visit for 45 days following an injury, instead of 10 days under current law.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 6:57 a.m.

Outlaw the GOP!

Martin Church

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 4:49 p.m.

i see even more changes coming down. for instance with the mandated health care from the OBAMA administration, is there even a need to have workers comp covering medical. after all we are paying for healthcare and now we have to have triple coverage. Auto carry's liftime coverage and workers comp has health coverage. so Now the health system can triple dip in the pool. we need to restructure who is paying for health coverage. we need to restructure and the democrats have not offered an option.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 12:49 p.m.

I don't think Workers' Comp will be allowed to "go away," even if everyone is covered by Obamacare in the future (which they won't be, God willing). It's a matter of what insurance should be primary. Say a sales agent is on the way home from her work day at a jewelry store and she stops off at the bank to make a deposit for the store and also to do some of her own banking. While she is at the bank, she decides to walk across the parking lot and grab a latte at the coffee shop so waiting in line is more endurable. She trips on a bad crack in the lot, falls, and sustains a closed head injury. (Quite a fall.) Can you see how many policies might apply? The liability policy of the parking lot owner, workers' comp, her new Obamacare policy... Only one is primary in a given situation. I don't see it ever being the case that our health insurance will cover anything and everything that might harm us physically.

Ron Granger

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 2:15 p.m.

The system is already bad. The GOP wants to make it worse. A family member injured her knee on the job over a year ago. It is a job she has worked at for over 20 years. The doctor said she needed surgery. The workers comp insurance company clerk said therapy only and refused to pay for surgery. Therapy was attempted. It did not resolve the issues. Surgery followed. It went to court. The workers comp insurance company brought no defense or witnesses. It was all just foot dragging in an effort to not pay or cover the surgery. It was an open and shut case, as they say. The judge ruled.. And the insurance company refused to pay. They dragged it out until the last date of appeal and appealed. Again, this was just to delay. They dismissed their appeal the day before the trial date. A year later, and they still have only paid part of the low 5 figure settlement. The judge has imposed a late payment penalty, but still they have not paid. The surgeons and physical therapy people are demanding to get paid. The family member is still missing wages due to lost work. And the GOP wants to make the system harder on workers? Replace judges with clerks for medical cases?


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

Look at the two debates going on today. On one hand people are calling for repeal of the helmet law, with no way yo pay for the injuries that WILL result. The rest of us will be picking up that tab. And here, people whining about workers getting hurt ON THE JOB. Evidently if one injures ones head while on ones own time, Other People have to pick up the tab, but if one gets injured at work...well...suffer!


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:48 p.m.

If everybody that showed up on this site with anecdotal evidence of fraud, welfare, food stamp, workers comp, actually REPORTED the fraud then people would get caught and the system would benefit. I love how the GOP does not want us engaging in "class warfare", but they consistently are going after one or two classes, the poor, the sick, the injured. If we want regulation of the financial sector...nope..class warfare. If we want regulation of working condition so FEWER people get hurt on the job...nope...class warfare. If we want people that earn a million a year so we can pay down our debt, build infrastructure etc...nope...class warfare. But, if we want to make it harder to make a workers comp claim, or tell people they cannot have a car to get to work while on assistance....Sad.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:51 p.m.

Sorry, should read ....if we want to tax people earning a million a year at the same rate as a working man... And I add: If we want to tax them at the same rate Ronald Reagan did!


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 6:23 a.m.

Tell ya what: from personal experience, the workers comp law allows companies to get away with murder (possibly, that's not a metaphoric statement). I broke my arm because I tripped over something in a poorly lit room while working. I was sent to a clinic where the examining doctor came in, looked at my arm from about 6 feet away and then left! He never examined the injury! Meanwhile, I got conflicting instructions from the company which was hired to "ensure my compliance" with company rules on workplace injuries. I was sent back to that same office WITH the emergency room report that that original doctor HADN'T SEEN because it was never sent to his office! For all these bozos knew, I could have had some dangerous condition (blood clot, evidence of bone disease, etc.) and I (or anybody) could have died - and it would have been a "big mystery" which the company would have denied responsibility for. Just to be clear: we must FORCE these Republi-bots to give us back the right to PROPER medical attention by our OWN doctors. This claim that the "old law" had problems is pure baloney.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 12:40 p.m.

"This claim that the "old law" had problems is pure baloney." Seems to me you just took a couple paragraphs to describe problems with the old law! Not saying any new law will fix those problems. Not even saying we need a new law just better oversight of both sides on the old laws would help.

Basic Bob

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 6:32 a.m.

Strange, the first paragraph I thought you were complaining about the existing system. And you want the same problems and the same bozos to continue.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 3:52 a.m.

I didn't read the bill so can't comment intelligently. Will one of the many informed posters to this article please fill me in on the specifics? No politics please. Real facts only.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 3:34 a.m.

The Worker's Comp system is a racket on both sides of the fence. A small Plaintiff's bar rakes in huge revenues with referral networks from unions, doctors, chiropractictors, and others.They "work up" injury cases with huge medical billings and try to keep the worker off as long as possible. The Democrats get pro-plaintiff magistrates appointed by the Governor. Worker's Compensation insurers do the reverse. They try to "starve out" claimants by delaying cases in the administrative law tribunals as long as possible, refer claimants to pro-insurance doctors who collect hundreds of thousands of dollars of insurance revenues per annum who write up reports "with a wink and a nod" that bring smiles to the faces of insurance adjusters. They have ex-cops who are private investigators follow around claimants with cameras. The GOP appoints magistrates who hear claims that owe political favors to the GOP. Fraud is sometimes rewarded and legitimate claimants often are drivento financial ruin. The Worker's Comp system is a mess that needs to be overhauled.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 6:30 a.m.

I don't think MOST people injured on the job think of taking some lawyer's sell job. But I agree: anyone who does is suspect. OTH: I don't see where the "new" law improves that situation and I can testify that the old law provided no choices and no protections for the injured employee. If you fall on someone's sidewalk and break your arm: you go for emergency treatment and then your personal physician can refer you to a qualified orthodpedic surgeon. In the case of on-the-job injuries: there's seldom doubt about employer liability but they do all possible to dodge that.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:59 a.m.

I always love how people who say they know somebody committing fraud with workers comp, yet how many of them have called an agency or the police to do anything about it? Could it be you really don;t, or you hear stories told over and over by the right wing hacks. If you KNOW a crime is being committed and you do nothing about it, you are as guilty as they are. If a person was robbing a liquor store and you did nothing, you are on par with the person who robbed it. As for your "knowledge" of the fraud in the system, I would also like to know how you KNOW what a persons disability is? Do you know what the injury that prevents them from working is? I would bet my life they don't. You are the same tools who say you saw a person get out of their car with a handicap sticker and think you KNOW they can't be handicapped because if they were it would be obvious. Michigan's system has been a model for years. Of course another piece of legislation that will not create one single job or improve the economy in any way. The only thing I need to see in the legislation that shows me it is completely wrong is this part, "the legislation would allow employers control over which doctor injured workers could visit for 45 days following an injury, instead of 10 days under current law." So you can tell me for a month and a half the doctor I see? The next thing will be auto insurance accident victims being forced to go to the doctor of choice of the insurance company.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

What's silly is people making claims of massive fraud in programs like this or other safety net programs without sources, and if "reportedly" seeing it themselves not taking accountability for reporting it so that it can be investigated and charges filed if it's legitimate.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 12:42 p.m.

godsbreath Very insightful! Just remember when you point your finger.... Silly Huh?


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 2:50 a.m.

The mirror can be revealing, jcj.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 2:08 a.m.

Could it be you really DO know people that cheat the system?


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 2:07 a.m.

On one hand you say report them then its the same old excuse "its small potatoes." There ARE crooked doctors out there that make money from both the insurance companies and the workers!


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 2:03 a.m.

And what part of the system pays your bills?


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:32 a.m.

Great Workers comp is littered with fraud


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

Do you have evidence of fraud? What are your sources? Did you report examples of fraud so that it could be investigated and the individual charged as appropriate, if so? It's an easy claim to make without facts to back it up.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:25 a.m.

I can not see how anyone in this state can continue to defend the class warfare these republicons are waging so fiercely. How can anyone not have signed the recall petitions. Do you people want to become expendible slave labor?


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 12:29 a.m.

Get government out of the way of poor, poor GOP constituencies and burden those suffering, if not surviving, work place injuries onto what is left of the tax payers tab as soon as possible. Thank you GOP!!!

Stephen Landes

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 12:13 a.m.

I don't find much useful information in this article -- just statements of positions either for or against, but no discussion of what the old and new legislation entails. Hey, what about a table comparing the impact of the old and new legislation on key elements of workers compensation.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:24 a.m.

Stephen, Although I agree with you in principle, I took the time to look at the actual legislation as passed by the House*. The changes appear complex enough that it will take a fairly careful review by a lawyer who practices in this area to understand the implications completely. Hopefully, Ryan will find the time to interview someone in the legal field down the road as a follow-up to this article. *<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

David Briegel

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 12:43 a.m.

What are you looking for, a NEWS source??

hut hut

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 12:03 a.m.

The Republicans agenda in Michigan and nationwide has been all about social issues and cutting the legs out from underneath those less fortunate and diminishing the voting strength of Democrats. Not one proposed piece of job legislation about job creation. It's all about the pledge of allegiance, gay marriage, supposed voter fraud, anti union... As long as the ultra rich have theirs, there's no reason to do anything about jobs for poor and working people except keep them down and keep them from voting.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 12:26 a.m.

I have nothing but contempt for those that get huge bonuses after running their company or city into the ground. If it were up to me I would hang those that give the bonuses and those that get them ( quite often the are one and the same) from their finger nails. I do not begrudge anyone hurt on the job compensation. But I do know more than a couple that get disability checks but work when no one is watching on things that would make my back ache. I do not know how we police that.

David Briegel

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 12:10 a.m.

jcj, actually, that is what we learn from Wall St and most of the 1%. Did you get your bonus for bankrupting your company? Many did!


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 12:06 a.m.

All the Democrats have done for the last50 years is try to figure out more ways to give somebody something for nothing!


Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 11:43 p.m.

Maybe Mr Rutledge does not know anyone that gets workers comp while they are as fit to work as anyone! Then again maybe he does know a few! I certainly have seen too many get workers comp and then you see them doing their own roof!


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:21 p.m.

@jcl. Did you report all these workers on workers comp doing their roofs so they could be investigated and charged with fraud?

hut hut

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 12:05 a.m.

THank you for anecdotes on workers scamming the system. There were a lot of WallStreet Bankers who scammed the system for trillions of dollars, yet I don't hear you or the Republicans complain about that. Welfare scamming is small potatoes compared to what led the US economy into the tank.

David Briegel

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 11:41 p.m.

Excuse me, but what kind of confusion has been caused and what type of confusion has now been resolved? Redneck and marshall, As long as the boss is happy? Is that really ALL that matters?


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

@grye, Do you have personal evidence of fraud? You know that if reported that it can be investigated and the individual charged? What are your sources of fraud? It's an easy claim to make.


Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 1 p.m.

Suggest you email Rep Jacobsen and ask him. He is making this claim, not the individuals on this site. I don't think this is all about the boss. There has been plenty of fraud by those claiming workmans comp. There will probably be plenty of faud in the future too, even after the changes. Scammers abound.

Angry Redneck

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 11:29 p.m.

As usual, the Republicans hit another one out of the park. Eliminating absurd government waste, one bill at a time.

Marshall Applewhite

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 : 11:27 p.m.

I don't really have an issue with any of the proposed changes. It seems like a necessary way to make the system more targeted and produces results that are more equal to the inputs.

Ed Kimball

Thu, Nov 3, 2011 : 10:15 p.m.

I don't understand how you can say that based on the limited amount of information in the article. There is only hearsay about what provisions the bill actually contains!